Thursday, December 31, 2009

Wishing a Very Happy 2010

Dekhiye paatey hain ushshaakh buton say kya faiz,
Ik barahman nay kaha hai ki yeh saal achchha hai.

A fortune teller has predicted that this year will be great. Hopefully all wishes will come true.
Here's wishing every life on this planet a very happy 2010.

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Want to go Viral? Get a Name Similar to Google.

Have you heard of Groovle. I certainly hadn't. Not until now that is. And this site has been up for the last two and half years.
Now comes the news (source: BBC) that Google has lost out in getting the domain name Groovle transferred to itself. Groovle is driven by Google. Except that the pristine white home page of Google can be replaced by a celebrity / dog / tree or any photo of your choice. Check one example with Angelina Jolie here.
My point is not whether people would confuse between Groovle and Google. My point is where was the need for Google to go after a web site which no one would have heard in a million years. After all how many people have heard of mine.
You know what?
Get a domain name similar to Google's.
In another two and half year expect Google to go after your site and thereafter your site to go viral. If you can manage to pull it off, that is. Just two have managed to do so far. Groovle, now, and earlier, Froogles.
Is Google being run by lawyers now?

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Definition of Optimism

New Year celebrations are proofs that human beings are by nature optimists.
It is just another day - a point on a planet's orbit - like any other point - an identical spot where Earth returns year after year (well almost! I'm sure we can disregard the planetary precession) - and yet what a world of difference!
We look back, we introspect, we disregard the fact that what we have done in the past year will effect us in the future, and then look forward to a great new year.
If this is not optimism then what is?
Or is it that only the optimist celebrate New Years?

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dell Copying Apple. Where has Creativity Gone?

Suppose I am the Chief Designer (or whatever I am called) at Dell.
My boss comes to me and tells me that I need to make an Apple-Look-Alike Dell computer.

What happens to my creativity?
What happens to my desire to mark my stamp in the world of computers?

Fortunately I am not in Dell.

But what is Dell thinking? Dell, that has been forefront of marketing ideas has now resorted to this? It definitely is a marketing opportunity, I agree, but where is the pride? Dell even calls their machine with the same name ("All In One").

You see the two models (Dell and Apple) and let me know what you think of the two.

No wonder Apple is rocking the hinges of the world and Dell is reduced to a also-ran.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Learning Organisations Survive Longer

In the book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge mentions some half a dozen or so companies whose leaders helped crystallize the concept of Learning Organization. This was in 1992, remember.

So I decided to see if the companies are still around or vanished ( I believe most of the companies mentioned in the giant best seller In Search of Excellence vanished within a few years).

Here's how ...

Hanover Insurance: As per them "Since January 2008, The Hanover is the only significant financial services company to be upgraded by A.M. Best, Moody's, and Standard and Poor's." Not bad. Not bad at all.

Herman Miller: Brian Walker, Chief Executive Officer, stated, "We were encouraged by our results this quarter for a number of reasons. The ramp-up in orders over the first quarter reflects the pattern of seasonal improvement we anticipated coming into the period. While orders remain below prior year levels, we were encouraged to see demand follow a more normalized trend this quarter." Hmmm.. Ok. Not bad.

Analog Devices: They seem to alive and kicking and innovating. So again. Not bad.

Apple: I own an iMac and iPod myself. I am waiting for their Tablet. They just rock!

Ford: The only of the Big Three to still hold their head high.

Polaroid: Frankly when I first heard of them - ages ago - with their instant photographs, I was not sure who would like to buy them. The cameras seem bulky and were very expensive in India. With the arrival of digital camera I was very sure they would disappear. I was obviously wrong. See here. They are still around and innovating. Good for them.

Royal Dutch / Shell: Deep sea oil find in Brazil; Contract in Iraq. They seem to be doing well.

Trammell Crow: I have never heard of them. My bad. But if a real estate development and investment company has survived 2009, they can't be too bad either.

So there you have it. All companies alive and kicking. Learning Organization cannot be such a bad thing then.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Are Cricketers Sissies?

Am I the only one seeing it this way, or there others with similar opinion?

Here's a list of equipment that a batsman has for protection against fast bowlers:

a) Helmet often with a visor - to protect the head, the temple, and the face.

b) Gloves - to protect the fingers

c) Pads - to protect the knee and the shin

d) Abdomen Guard - to protect the family jewels

e) Thigh Guard, Elbow Guard, Arm Guard, Chest Guard - to protect, well, thigh, elbow, arm, and chest.

Is there any part of the body that is exposed that could be damaged by a fast ball?

Oh yes! The foot.

So, the batsmen wear some pretty heavy duty shoes.

So why was yesterday's ODI between India and Srilanka canceled?

Was the pitch that bad?

Or was it because the Srilankan team were scared of beaten hollow having scored very few runs on the board?

Or is it that cricketers are now used to only flat pitches and they have forgotten how to duck and weave and hook and pull? (Hey! We make 300+ runs on flat pitches. We must be great!)

Or was it because it was a dead rubber and Srilankan and Indian players just wanted to go home and relax?

Or are the Cricketers plain sissies?

I think they should switch to playing with tennis balls.

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Friday, December 25, 2009

Free Online Brain Training

This is an excellent site.
Just playing games for 10 minutes a day - just 10 minutes - will help sharpen your brain power.
And what is more, IT IS FREE.
They have many interesting games. And the brain area they focus on are: Speed, Memory, Attention, Flexibility and Problem Solving.
So, without hesitation register yourself at Lumosity and reclaim your brain (this is Lumosity's TM).
Highly recommended!
One day you will return to this blog to thank me.

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Great Resource for MBA Students and a Job Opportunity

Internet can be such a tease.
There are occasions when a google search could be so frustrating. You try and try but never get what you desire. Only lot of junk.
And some days, a little digging could turn out to be serendipitous.
Consider this ...
I am reading Globality and one of the authors is an Indian, Arindam K. Bhattacharya. The back cover indicates that he works at The Boston Consulting Group's New Delhi office. On a lark I decided to check out the BCG website.
And guess what I discovered?
They actually have a wonderful page - carefully hidden within their "Join BCG" page - that lets you actually practice on a few business cases. They call it Practice Cases. I think this is a great resource for an MBA student. Even if you are not an MBA student or an MBA degree holder, but were always interested in business management, this is a great (fun!) resource. Try it out. Who knows? You may actually end up applying for and getting a job at the BCG!!! Won't that be fun? Yes, you may thank me profusely. On this blog.
Or perhaps you are in middle management vying for a top post and wish to get an edge (in a nice way) over your colleague, this could help you. Imagine saying in a meeting, "From a size and growth perspective, this looks like a very attractive market." (I am just joking, of course!)
They also have what the call an Interactive Case page. It is definitely worth trying that out too.
Let me know if you enjoyed cracking these business situation.
And if you really enjoy business case studies, why not visit this too.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Glamour in Management Book

I am into the 3rd page of this book: Globality: Competing with Everyone from Everywhere for Everything by Harold L. Sirkin, James W. Hemerling and Arindam K, Bhattacharya, and I already wonder who this book is written for. Or perhaps I am biased.
Consider this extract from the book: "And Embraer {the Aerospace Company] grew up in a South American country [Brazil] much better known for coffee, oranges, diamonds and steel - and supermodel Gisele Bündchen ..."

Supermodel Gisele Bündchen??
Is that a bigger name than football stars Pelé, Garrincha, Zico, Ronaldo, Kaká, ... I could go on ...?

Oh I understand.
The authors want to introduce sex appeal to make the book interesting.
Or perhaps, the book's primary readers are from a country where football is played with hands and Gisele is a better known name than Kaká.
Or both. Which is a pity. The book is very interesting and is definitely suitable for a wider audience.

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Newspapers are the Jokers in the Global Warming Debate

"Global Warming is Not a Myth: Temperature in the City [Bangalore] has changed by 2 degrees."

This is a headline in Times of India.
Unfortunately, this is exactly the kind of moronic headlines that detracts people from understanding what Global Warming is all about.
And moronic is an understatement.

The news is about a workshop on Climate Change and Sustainable Development organised in Bangalore by The Energy and Research Institute (TERI). To be fair to the workshop, the increase of the 2 degree rise in temperature is attributed to changes in land usage and poor city planning ("The cut-and-paste model used by architects who duplicate European style is an additional factor. Buildings in tropical countries like India don't need to absorb heat ...").

But screaming your lung out (half an inch high, bold headlines is screaming) that Global Warming is not a myth because the temperature of a poorly planned city that has cut trees and placed concrete slabs all over is just bad science and irresponsible press.

Local warming may or may not contribute to Global Warming. It is very important to distinguish between the two phenomenon. Here's a short, good article on the subject: Are Urban Heat Islands Linked to Global Warming?. To reiterate the article's main point: "An urban heat island is a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas. Unlike global warming, which entails a worldwide rise in temperatures, heat islands occur at the local level."

Global Warming is a serious issue being discussed on various fora. There seems to be consensus but no one knows for sure. The dissenters seem to make sense too. As it is it is difficult to determine who is correct, who is not. In midst of all this, irresponsible newspaper reporting is the last thing the debate needs.

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Miracles and Expectations

I hope for miracles.
But I do not expect it.
Even if it is something as big as the Copenhagen meet.

I certainly do not expect that one Mr. Obama will go to his country and tell his people that he has agreed to a huge cut in our carbon emission because we are rich enough. So please slow down your growth, divert your valuable resources to find greener solutions; so what if unemployment grows for some time. After all saving Earth is more important that unemployment, right? And oh by the way, I have also pledged huge amount of money to the developing and underdeveloped country.

I also do not expect one Mr. Manmohan Singh to go to his (and my) country and tell his countrymen that he has agreed to huge cuts in carbon emission since we have achieved sufficient progress. The world knows we could become an economic power some day. So for some time let us not worry about the millions who still live under or very near the poverty line. Let's get the environment under control, let us save our future generations; so what if the present generation suffers a little.

You actually think heads of nation can solve this mess?
Then you are naive.

Yeah you have heard / seen those massive protest rallies; but you seriously think the rest of the world is worried. We may tut-tut for some time, but then drive down to a shop 10 minutes from our house in a car.

We human have a peculiar characteristic. We think that we take actions taking into account long-term effect but actually we react only when the danger is imminent and effects us. In this way we are different from animals. They also react when the danger is imminent. But at least they do not claim to take long-term into consideration.

Yes I do believe in miracles.
I will continue to do so.

"Hum ko maloom hai jannat ki hakikat lekin;
Dil ko khush rakhney ko Ghalib yeh khayal achcha ha
I know the truth about heaven; however it is a happy thought to have.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Free Ebook and Great Links

Seth Godin has done it again.
He is the face of innovation on the Internet and he offers this ebook free.
It is called What Matters Now.
Even if you haven't heard of him (unlikely!) or do not appreciate his style of writing (possible!), I would recommend that you download this ebook.
For this e-book is a compilation of 70 cutting edge thinkers and innovators.
A must read for everyone. Highly recommended.
What have you got to lose anyway? It is free!
And if you like it, spread the word around.
By the way, to me the ebook is a rich source of great links. Every author who has written an article has a link to either a blog, or a tweet, or a website or a book, or all of these. And I intend to follow up every link within the next week or so.

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Worst Case Scenarios

"If the worst-case scenario played itself out - not the potential or likely, but the worst - would that be acceptable?"
This is the advise that James M. Wilson offers clinical scientists. This comes from experience of the saddest kind. In 1999, James M. Wilson was the head of the institute that ran a gene therapy experiment that resulted in death of a 18 year old boy. (See! That's the thing. You get to hear a lot about the miracles of stem cell therapy. How many times have you heard voices of sanity that says, "Slow down! Reflect!") - you can read all about it; just click on the link above.
If you think about it, the above warning is applicable to all those who are in the position to influence. Whether it is IPCC, or World Leaders, or CEO of a company, or a Project Manager or a Parent. The question remains the same: Would the worst-case scenario be acceptable to you?
One might argue that this could lead to paralytic inaction. On the other hand, this could well turn out to be the basis of meaningful, positive action.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Of Antibiotics and Myths

You go to a doctor with fever. He recommends a blood test and then scribbles out a almost-undecipherable prescription of an antibiotic course.
But wait, have you ever thought what these antibodies are?
I certainly didn't.
Not until I came across this in the September 2009 issue (Yeah! I know. I am running late) of Scientific American India: "Most medically important antibiotics come from soil bacteria. Conventional wisdom holds that dirt microbes evolved these compounds as lethal weapons in the fierce battle waged beneath out feet for food and territory."
This Special Issue of the Scientific American is one of the best in recent years. It covers the origins of as diverse a topic as The Mind to Ball Bearings to Scotch Tape to Computing. In other words, a treasure trove for those who like their information in small packages.
I think it is possible to order back issues. Try your luck here and see if they still have a copy for you.
Before I leave you another snippet: "A popular factoid claims that water running down a drain turns in one direction in the Southern Hemisphere and the opposite in the Northern Hemisphere. The idea is a myth: although the Coriolis force is strong enough to direct the winds of hurricanes when acting over hundreds of miles for days, it is far too weak to stir a small bowl of water in the scant seconds the water takes to run down the drain." And I have been teaching my sons all the wrong things.

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Bad Politician Good Politician

In a previous post I had proposed that the following extract from Economics In One Lesson: The Shortest and Surest Way to Understand Basic Economics by Henry Hazlitt applies to managers too:

The bad economist sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good economist also looks beyond. The bad economist sees only the direct consequence of a proposed course; the good economist looks also at the longer and indirect consequences. The bad economist sees only what effect of a given policy has been or will be on one particular group; the good economist inquires also what the effect of the policy will be on all groups.

However, it is more apt for the politicians. Just replace the word economist with politician in the above extract and you have the snapshot of the chaos that is created by the government's knee-jerk reaction to the Telegana problem.

In fact, the paragraph actually describes all politicians. All. So it is worth repeating the whole paragraph with appropriate words:

The bad politician sees only what immediately strikes the eye; the good politician also looks beyond. The bad politician sees only the direct consequence of a proposed course; the good politician looks also at the longer and indirect consequences. The bad politician sees only what effect of a given policy has been or will be on one particular group; the good politician inquires also what the effect of the policy will be on all groups.

Of course, some of you may argue that 'good politician' is something of an oxymoron.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Diving Deep Into Visual Link Spanish

The package I was waiting from the US Institute of Languages, Visual Link Spanish Level 1, arrived the day before yesterday. What surprised me was the speed of delivery. I was charged exactly $0.00 for standard delivery (read slow delivery). And I received the package much before the promised date (6-10 weeks). Makes you wonder why books ordered on Amazon take so long and why do they charge so much for standard delivery? But I am digressing.

Naturally I dived straight in. I am thrilled that what I got is exactly what I expected.

This is a basic level course. The CD-ROM forms the main part of the course although there are other bits and pieces attached (such audio CD's, free English - Spanish - English dictionary, a tiny booklet, etc.)

Although I have been learning Spanish for some time now - mainly with the help of audio courses on my iPod and therefore I was a little apprehensive - I find that this course is helpful. In two ways: first I get to revise whatever Spanish I know so far. and second, the presentation is so well designed that I get to learn new material quickly. There are so many activities that ensures I practice what I learn. I find myself actually mumbling phrases in Spanish.

I particularly enjoy the lessons that are generative. Here's what I mean. Most of the lessons (though not all) have words divided into groups. New sentences (not just the one prompted in the lessons) can be formed by combining the words for these groups.
I look forward to move to higher levels of Spanish once I complete Level 1, which should not take that long.

You can try out the first few lessons free if you click on the link above or click on the pyramid on the right.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Smart Phones are Changing Lives

Smart Phones are here to redefine every aspect of your life.
You can play music on it.
You can see Youtube and movies.
You can play sophisticated games on it.
Browse, read emails, send emails, twitter, talk. text, interface with face book, check out weather, plan your journey, get news alerts, share photographs and video, ... you can also pay your bills at the supermarket counter ... the list goes on.

Soon personal navigation will come packaged with Smart Phones. Google has cast the first stone. Its voice-assisted turn-by-turn navigation is already available on smart phones with Android OS. And Garmin and TomTom are already shaking in their boots.

Let's try and speculate what else could be done using a smart phone ...

1) Step-by-step Cooking Instructions: imagine being guided through a delicious Chicken Butter Masala. Yummy!

2) Language Translation: Oh! I am not talking just about Google Translate or Google Dictionary. Imagine if you could speak into the smart phone in English and it the translates the sentence into Spanish, German, French, etc., loud enough for the native to hear. You then hold up the phone to record the response and there! you have the response translated into English.

3) How about a scanner? You like the camera but are not sure if this is the nest deal you can get. Scan the bar code and get instant comparison of the prices listed in all stores in your vicinity.

4) Another one on shopping. You come across a photograph of an absolutely fabulous flower vase as you wait for your turn at the barber (ok! hair stylist). You click the photograph using your smart phone and you instantlyget the location of all the places you can buy that vase. And the price, of course.

5) Say goodbye to passports and visas. Smart phone is here.

I could think up a dozen more applications.
What would you like your smart phone to do?

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Time For New Year Resolutions; Already?

New Year Resolutions?
There is time yet I am sure!
Sadly no.

Most New Year Resolutions fail within the first few weeks.
Perhaps, we make such resolutions at the spur of the moment without giving it proper thought or planning.

Merely promising yourself that you are committed to something is not sufficient.
So, if you are serious about resolutions, you may wish to pick up tips from Chris Guillebeau.

Here's another tip: Since an important part of new resolutions is to look back at what has been, a great place to start is your emails. If you are the type who does not regularly delete emails from your "Sent Items", it might be worthwhile browsing from Jan 2009. You will be amazed by what you discover.

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Biusiness Model For Wikipedia

I believe Wikipedia has a flawed business model. It depends primarily on donation.

I am sure many donate; but not that many.
Businesses cannot work on donations.
Only NGOs can.
And Wikipedia is clearly not an NGO.

Paid subscription seems to be an obvious way. This is the Encyclopedia Britannica model. I am not sure this is going to be hugely successful. The Wikipedia is a collaborative effort, so I cannot see a contributor ready to pay for using the wiki. In fact, it is more likely that a contributor will demand payment.

On the other hand, a collaboration with Google could actually rake in moolah. Google can place context-based advertisements in the wiki and share the revenue with Wikipedia and the contributors. This might actually reverse the loss in the number of contributors reported recently in the news (see here)

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Shaming Into Positive Action

It is unlikely that any of you would have come across this advertisement. It is very industry specific and relates to the aerospace industry.
The advertisement shows a DAC International's Gen-X Electronic Flight Bag in a fish tank with this wonderful catch phrase ... NOT THAT YOU WOULD BUT YOU COULD.

Now this can be used in a variety of scenario. Here goes ...

To the world leaders meeting at Copenhagen from today: Not that you would but you could [make the world a better place]

To the environmental scientists: Not that you would but you could [stop squabbling and do some real scientific work]

To Mukesh and Anil Ambani: No that you would but you could [stop converting your sibling rivalry into corporate war]

To the terrorists: Not that you would but you could [start behaving like decent human beings for a change]

You get the idea. The use is almost universal.
An extremely brilliant, use-in-all-situations kind of phrase, don't you agree?

And finally to myself: Not that you would but you could [stop publishing such crap in the name of serendipity on this blog]

How would you like to use it?

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Cricket? Yeah! Hockey? What?

India is Team No. 1 in cricket. It has been a long, hard journey and the end result is certainly sweet. We all rejoice. I really hope we maintain this position for a long, long time to come. And we are the team that all other countries look to beat.

But spare a thought for Hockey too, which was once the pride of India.
How many of us knew that the Champions Trophy is being played right now, as I type?
We did not even qualify for the Champions Trophy being played in Australia.

We will play in the 2010 Hockey World Cup though.
By virtue of being the host nation. Not because we won any qualifying tournaments (see here)
But this is a chance. If India wins the World Cup, hockey will regain it position in India.
I hope the Indian Hockey team is hard at work.
They do not have much time.
The World Cup Hockey will be played in N. Delhi from 28th Feb to 13th March, 2010.

Ok one more question: how many of you knew that the World Cup Hockey will be played in India in 2010?

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The Tour of Nilgiris 2010

A few days ago, a colleague of mine asked if I was participating in the Tour of Nilgiris. Since I am not, I replied with a no without giving much thought to it.
However, it must have stuck in my mind somewhere.
For I cannot think of any reason why the first thing that came to my mind this morning was I should participate.
So here I am committing to myself that I will take on the Nilgiris within the next two years.
Ideally, I would like to go for it in 2010; I have a year with me.
But since this year there were 300 applicants and only 70 are allowed to participate I give myself one more year.

The Tour of Nilgiris is a 8-day 900km bicycle tour.
It takes the rider through Bangalore, Mysore, Hassan, Madkari, and Ooty.
It is non-competitive. Sure it is no Tour de France, but at the age of (almost) 45, this is what I look forward to.

More that the tour, it is likely to be a discovery of self. Will keep posted - most probably will launch a new blog to track my progress as I go from a occasional-cycling enthusiast to a full-blast tour cyclist.

Nilgiris, here I come.

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

India-Unfriendly Amazon Kindle

I repeat Amazon Kindle is not very India-friendly.
I have two.

First, all those e-books that were free on kindle before the launch of Kindle International are now priced at at least $2.00. Funny! I so no reason why this should be so. Unless Amazon thinks this is an easy way of making some quick money.

Second, there are several books, that can be sole to India but the Kindle version is not available for Indian Readers. Case in point: The Informant by Kurt Eichenwald.

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Paid-For News on Internet

I fail to understand how the pay-for-news-and-analysis business model works on the Internet. I would of course like to pay for news that is exclusive and analysis that is trenchant, leading to a distinct financial and strategic advantage for me. Such models can also work if scarcity is drummed up.
But this: news about Bing Maps??? I can read this on the Indian edition of the WSJ if and only if I subscribe to it. Wow! I thought! Must be really exclusive!
One search on the Internet and I get to know everything - everything - about Bing Maps. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
So why would someone pay for news?
News, on any media, should be free and easily accessible.
Business dealing with news can make money only through advertisements.
This is true of newspapers, true of news channels on TV and definitely true of news on Internet.

Coming back to WSJ, India.
I visit it regularly.
It has a collection of articles and news that interest me.
And when I encounter some article that is locked only for subscribers, I merely skip it; sure that I will find information on it from the Internet - free.

If you are a subscriber, perhaps you can explain me your point of view.

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Global Warming: A Story of Hard(ly) Scientific Data and Gimmicks

Shortly after Maladives holding underwater cabinet meeting (see here), we have Nepal holding cabinet meeting on the slopes of the Everest (see here).

Perhaps they are not aware of the very basis of IPCC's dooms day warning lies in shambles (see here)

We do not need gimmicks ... we need quick action based on hard scientific data.

Hard scientific data? Are you joking? Read this here.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Gateway to Learning Spainsh Rapidly

See the stepped Mayan Pyramid on the right hand strip of this blog? That is the Pyramid in the Mayan city of Chichen-Itza, Mexico. That is also the gateway to an incredible software that guarantees that you will learn good Spanish in fairly quick time. Click on the pyramid.I have tried it and hence I recommend it to you unhesitatingly.

And the best thing is that you need not buy it to get started.

They - Visual Link Spanish - offer a free CD. The free CD contains their first chapter with some 11 lessons. They charge you a postage and handling of $1.95. but that's about all. This money is refunded if you buy the entire package.
This first chapter in itself is sufficient to get you started speaking in fairly good accent.

Now, if you are not interested in paying even $1.95, you can try the demo online too. The demo is identical to the CD.

Having tried the CD, I am already in love with the course and am now eagerly awaiting the delivery of the package.

Here's hoping we converse in Spanish one of these days.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Noise Isolating Devices

Ever dreamed of driving on one of the busy cities of India but nit being bothered by the noise? For those who have not experienced this, it is a nightmare.
Here you are driving back home, after a long hard day, and all you wish to do it reach home safely with the least amount of stress. Half a kilometer from your home, the traffic signal turns red. So, you stop, switch off the engine and wait patiently. Perhaps, you are listening to some music. The traffic light turns green, and wham! every bus, truck, car, scooter. motor cycle, start pressing their horns, honking with all their might, as if willing to move the traffic by sound energy. What do they expect? Traffic to flow like water?
Well, no use carping about it. SO what is the next best thing to do?
Cut off the noise.
A good noise-isolating headphone or a earphone should do the trick.
Noise-canceling headphones are no good in this situation; they work on feedback and are best suited for a constant frequency noise (such as that from aircraft engine).
For variable frequency, variable magnitude noise, noise-isolation works best.
What is noise isolation?
insert your forefingers in your ear. You block of fair amount of sound waves. That os noise isolation for you.
I recently got hold of Shure 210. There are some adverse reviews on this ear phone, but to tell you the truth, I have never been happier. It has good fidelity and has excellent noise isolating ear plugs.
If you are not so sure, or not a music-listening kind of person, here is one more method.
But some swimming ear plugs - the ones that flex.
Use those and I guarantee you stress-less driving on Indian roads.
But do not use if you ride to bike. The requirements are different. You want to stay alive while riding your cycle on Indian roads.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

Amazon Kindle for Free

Why is the Amazon Kindle so expensive?
For that matter why does it come at a cost at all?
It is like the shaving razors. Companies like Gillette and Wilkinson doe not make money from selling the stick that holds that razor blade, rather from the razor blades. Razor blades are a repeat buy and yields much more revenue.
Ok a better analogy. Did you know you could by BlackBerry 9000 bold for $0.01? It comes bundled with the AT&T plan. So how do you At&T recovers the cost of Blackberry it is offering free? Yeah, you got it? Talk time, Texting, Internet access, etc.
Ditto with Kindle. It is the content (books, and magazine and newspaper subscriptions) that will yield revenue. So why not just sell The Kindle for free or at a very nominal cost. I am sure by now Amazon and other e-ink book sellers, like Sony, have already recovered the initial investment.
Already the Sony Pocket-sized Reader comes pre-loaded with 100 e-books (at least that's what I saw in England in my last recent trip). That sort of reduces the real cost to almost zero. (It is possible that the pre-loaded books are free e-books; not sure about that though). But eventually the costs will come down. because of competition and because it will make better business sense to follow the razor blade model.
Consider this. You can download "Kindle" (the software) on to your PC or iPhone. Soon it will be available for Blackberry. These are free. So why not the hardware Kindle?
What you did not know you could have a kindle on your laptop?
Go here and download kindle and get access to e-books.
It is not the same as buying the Kindle itself. But it is a stopgap. One day Kindle will be available for free.

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13 Spectacular Blogs

It has been over a year that I compiled a list of blogs that in my view spectacular. I thought I should give them a visit. Except for one who has stopped blogging - who I removed from the list - the rest are still going strong. Want to spend the next two hours browsing some good, varied stuffs. Visit the list of spectacular blogs here.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

An Affiliate Program That Pays You 51%

No it is not a gimmick.

If you have been an affiliate, you must by now know that all your earn is pittance. Must affiliate programm suck. Now here is one good example of how the affiliate program should actually work. You actually get 51% of the proceeds. Now that is cool.

And no I am not an affiliate yet. And I do not get paid anything for this.
Just doing what is best done on Internet - help others. :-))

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The Statistically Insignificant Wall Street Journal

In my previous post I have been a little unfair. I took a potshot at Wall Street Journal without actually quoting Fooled By Randomness. So here goes ...

On rare occasions when I boarded the 6:42 train to New York I observed with amazement the hordes of depressed business commuters (who seemed to prefer to be elsewhere) studiously buried in The Wall Street Journal, apprised of the minutiae of companies that, at the time of writing now, are probably out of business. Indeed it is difficult to ascertain whether they seemed depressed because they were reading the newspaper, or if depressed people tend to read the newspaper, or if people who are living outside their generic habitat both read the newspaper and look sleepy and depressed. But while early on in my career such focus on noise would have offended me intellectually, as I would have deemed such information as too statistically insignificant for the derivation of any meaningful conclusion, I currently look at it with delight. I am happy to see such mass-scale idiotic decision making, prone to overreaction in their postperusal investments orders - in other words I currently see in the fact that people read such material an insurance for my continuing business of option trading against the fools of randomness.

Do you still want to read The Wall Street Journal?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Microsoft is getting desperate

Talk of being retro.

Microsoft is back to its form and this time they have a friend in the form of Robert Murdoch.

Apparently Robert Murdoch has decided that the content of his vast news media will not be available through Google but only via Bing. This obviously flies in the face of the free flow of information that Internet stands for. See the report here in Speigel.

Free information is obviously desirable. Failing that, I can understand redacted information available only on full payment, but this? This is downright retro.

Is this sign of Microsoft getting desperate? "Let's dominate the Internet. Whatever it takes."

In any case, after reading Taleb's Fooled by Randomness, who wants to read Wall Street Journal?

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Observations as London Goes Past

Imagine going all the way to UK and spending all day with customer or inside the hotel room. Last week the weather in England was miserable. It rained incessantly - almost like tropical rains. So instead of visiting my favourite museums and reliving the past, I opted to observe the present.

And here is what I observed.

1) A Marathi lady, just married, working at a restaurant as a waiter. We talked to her. She wouldn't be caught dead as a waiter in India. So, do Indians learn about dignity of labour only when they are away from India?

2) A Mongolian girl, all of 28, has a 10 year old son in Mongolia. She works 7 days a week. 5 days as a waiter and 2 days in a company where she hopes to join soon since she has completed her MBA. She pines for her son but works hard to achieve her dreams. Some day her son will join her and lead a comfortable life. We can learn life lessons from everyone.

3) Pani Puri being sold at a pound a piece - 5 pounds a plate. In Bangalore, I gobble down 7 for Rs. 10.

4) Corn-fed Chicken seems to be the flavour of the season. I had it twice, once in an reservation-before-6pm restaurant and then in a small bar. I never noticed "corn-fed chicken" in a menu before. Perhaps I was not looking. Or perhaps, it is a delicacy only on Worcester.

5) London Underground is very clean. No empty beer cans, or wafer packets. Even on a weekend! Is it the London Olympics?

6) Blackberry users seems to far outnumber any other smart phone user in London. And before anyone screams bad sampling, I would like to tell you that this was on a Saturday and in non-rush hour. SO it is unlikely that I sampled all office goers.

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The Lost Symbol for £0.99

It pays to be loyal. Though I see no reason why customers should be loyal - if the customer is the king, shouldn't the companies be loyal to the customer? I would rather call it patronage.

In any case, this "patronage" resulted in obtaining The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown for £0.99. Now isn't that cool?


I have been buying books from Foyles for some time now. Every time I buy something worth £15 I get a stamp. The personnel at the cash counters are pretty decent. They stamp the Foyalty Card (that's what they call it) even when the cost of a book is £14.50 or thereabouts. Once you get 10 stamps, you are eligible to buy anything worth £15 (basically, 10%).

So, The Lost Symbol beckoned me and I am now following the exploits of Professor Robert Langdon (he always ends up with a super smart lady companion, have you noticed?).

Why didn't I purchase a book of more lasting value, you ask?

Oh come on! Don't be a snob!

Besides, I do not think it would have made for an attention-grabbing headline. Do you think you would have stopped to read a blog titled "Think Twice for £0.99".
That was the other book I picked up :)

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Friday, November 6, 2009

Distorted Brain True Images

I have an issue with those who claim that the world you see around is just a holographic projection of what your senses tell you. And that, that is not the reality.

Let's examine this for a little while. Right now - this very moment - what you see, or rather what you do not see is because of your brain's limited capacity to process electro-magnetic radiation beyond the visual range. The sound that you do not hear in that distance is limited by your brain's capacity to process the frequency limited to the audio range. Birds can see more colours than us. Sharks "see" electrical impulses with the help of the sensors that line their sides.

Fair enough. What we see and hear and feel and taste and smell is limited.

But it is not unreal, is it?
Perhaps, a portion or a subset of the reality. But still a reality, nevertheless.

But is the reality distorted by our brain? After all the brain is a product of random evolution that merely helped us survive (some of you may disagree, feel free to do so). So if distorted reality helps us survive, so be it. The brain is not in any hurry to see the reality as is - there is no apparent evolutionary advantage. Or is there?

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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Next Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Bill Strickland.

No, he is not a Nobel Laureate.

Not yet.

But if his job training centre and crafts school model is successfully replicated all over America and the World then it wont be long coming. If microcredit can win Prof. Mohammad Yunus a Nobel Peace Prize than why not Bill Strickland?

I am terribly impressed by Bill Strickland's achievement.

He lives The Secret.

Want to know more about him.

Check this book review out => Making The Impossible Possible

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Enhance Your Egyptian Experience

Ancient Egypt has a strange attraction to most of us. Many of us yearn to go to the land of Pharaohs. But do you want to be just like any other tourists: been there, done that? Of course not.

Now here is a way to enhance your experience. Learn how to read ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs. Imagine yourself in the ancient rock temples of Nubia, reading the script for yourself instead of depending on some tourist guide spinning stories.

You think I am joking?
Check out How To Read Egyptian Hieroglyphs and tell me if you still think I am.

What? You are not interested in ancient Egypt? Then how about some brain exercise? Learning to read an ancient script is just what the doctor ordered. Check it out anyway.

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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Think Hard Before You Buy Amazon Kindle

I have been drooling after Kindle since ages. (See here, here and here).
Now that Kindle is available in India, I am hesitant to buy it.
Because of negative reviews by an Amazon Kindle user who calls herself Gadget Queen.

And then there is this other problem to do with DRM and ownership. Kind of freaks me out.

What of the 1400+ positive reviews?
Valid question; but my approach to any product purchase over Internet closely follows the method used by scientists: It doesn't matter how many evidences you find to support your theory. All it takes is one exception and your theory is history.

I like the idea of carrying 1500 books with me on one ultra light device, but I do not like the idea of DRM.

In the recent past, Amazon has remotely deleted purchased copy of 1984 and Animal Farm for users' Kindle. That is clearly unacceptable. The funda behind DRM to prevent unrestricted duplication of copyrighted material makes sense, but if that means I do no possess the content I buy on Kindle then I would like to think hard, very hard, before buying a Kindle.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Real Life Ayn Rand Character

Remember Howard Roark? The hero of The Fountainhead. The architect who never gave up or gave in in his quest to achieve the sublime?
I always thought he would remain the figment of Ayn Rand's imagination.
Apparently I was wrong. Totally.
There exists at least one such Howard Roark in real life.
Here, read this ...

I stumbled upon another kind of jazz as a high school senior when I participated in, as a member of Mr. Ross's art class, in that memorable visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. The startling beauty of that amazing house, rising improbably from the rocky ledges in a deep-green forest, stayed with me all my life. Wright was commissioned to build the house in 1936 by Edgar Kaufman ... Kaufman wanted a rustic summer home situated in such a way that it would provide a view of the lovely waterfall that tumbled down over the rocky outcrops on the property. Instead, Wright built an iconoclastically modern structure of glass, steel, and native stone, defined by massive horizontal levels of poured concrete that cantilevered dramatically out from the core of the house and rested on invisible supports. The building seemed to float in the trees.

Shades of Howard Roark? Wait, there is more ...

Whatever Kaufmann's reaction to the design of the house, he must have been baffled by where Wright decided to put it. Because instead of choosing a site for the house that would show off the waterfall view to its best advantage, Wright built the house in the one spot where you couldn't see the waterfall at all - directly above the falls, anchored upon the rocky ledges over which the water flowed.

In fact, Frank Lloyd Wright = Howard Roark.

I stumbled upon the above extract in a book called Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Other Hero of The Goal

Almost everyone has read (or at least heard) of The Goal written by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. The sequel too turned out to be very popular - though not immediately in India; only when It's Not Luck was re-titled as The Goal II that the sales picked up!

Personally, I think It's Not Luck is a far more important book that The Goal. It's Not Luck discusses a more comprehensive Thinking Process whereas The Goal is a more spoon-feeding kind of solution offer; perhaps that's why The Goal is more popular.

There is, of course, another reason why The Goal is more popular. It is infinitely more readable. It reads like a novel. And the credit to that should go to the co-author of The Goal, Jeff Cox. After having read both the books, I think Jeff's narrative style makes all the difference.

Naturally the next question is: where is Jeff Cox now? Turned out that he is active and doing some good work even now. Here is his website if you want to follow him up.

What you have not read The Goal yet? Sad. Very Sad.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Repaying Mother's Debt

And then there was a king who wanted to repay all his debts before he dies. Debts of even those who helped him in his childhood. If someone had shared lunch with him when he was small, he gave them a palace. Finally, he approached his mother and wanted to repay her debts too ... for all the love she had showered on him, for all the nights she was awake when he got fever, for all the lies she told to his father to save him from punishment, for all the wonderful food she cooked, for all ... you get the idea.

She smiled and told him that she would like the payment in kind. The king only had to sleep one night in a bed that was wet, soaking wet.

"That's it?"

"That's it."

So a bed was brought and water was poured on it to the mother's satisfaction. And the king went to sleep on it.

By midnight, he had learned his lesson.

He came out shivering and fell at his mother’s feet asking for forgiveness.

Mother's debt can never be repaid.

I heard this story from my uncle when I was small. No idea what the source is.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tower of Babel and Irregular Verbs

We missed out on a golden opportunity to redress the wrongs done to us by the Gods at Babel. Different languages ensured that we will not be able to build the Tower of Babel. But surely the grammar was codified long after the languages themselves evolved to a quasi-steady state. SO WHICH IDIOT INVENTED IRREGULAR VERBS? Or perhaps Gods introduced to ensure that people may never master each others' language and make another attempt at Babel.

Frustrations in learning new language apart, I think that the Tower of Babel was the noblest endeavour that (hu)man ever attempted: the tower was dedicated to the glory of human beings; what could be nobler?

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

See With Your Tongue

When we were small we were told that snakes can see with their tongue. Some of us dismissed it as old wives' tales and others believed it.

We had no way of verifying such facts on Internet those days, you see?

Turns out that the "fact" was not that far off.

Snakes use their tongue to obtain directional sense of smell, which is as good as seeing.

But what about humans? Here is an extract from The Answer by John Assaraf (yeah! the same guy from The Secret) and Murray Smith.

Except for the fact that she is the lead singer for her high school choir, the girl on the stage seems just like any other sixteen-year-old. As the concert proceeds, Beth keeps a close watch on the choir's conductor, intently picking up his every movement and gesture. ... but there is something about her that makes her different from all the other girls in the choir.

Beth is blind. In fact, she has been blind from birth. ... She is watching him with her tongue.

Beth is wearing a device designed by the late Paul Bach-y-Rita, a neuroscientist at the University of Winconsin at Madison, who devoted much of his entire career to researching and demonstrating the proposition that all senses are created equal. And not just equal, but pretty much interchangeable. ...

Bach-y-Rita's device starts with a video camera strapped to the user's head that feeds video information to the laptop, which reduces the image to a 144-pixel signal that is then fed through the electrodes to a grid that rests on the tongue, which reads the image as a sort of superlingual braille. ...

Wow! The human brain is better than we thought!

Anything that can be measured can be transported to the brain," said the scientist,"[and if] we can get it to the brain, the brain can learn how to use it."

Think about it!

Just one question that popped up in my head, and I am really curious to know this: how does Beth sing with that electrode resting on her tongue?

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Our Belief System

You do not believe in God? Fine with me. Nor do I.

You believe in spirituality? Again, fine with me, though I think spirituality is religion in disguise.

You believe in E=mc2? I do too. Or that's what I thought till this morning.

But why do I believe in something that some scientist said and most others agree to?

It could be wrong, no?

Newton's theory of Gravity lies in shambles since Einstein came along.

Someone else may come along and E=mc2 would be a passé too.

That's how science evolves.

But that is not the point of this blog.

Isn't it scary that our belief system is dictated by others?

Just because majority believes in god or believes in relativity or quantum mechanics, we take it for granted that it would be true. We start believing in it.

How are we different from those who believed that the Earth is flat?

Or from those who believed that the Earth is the centre of universe?

Have you ever questioned what you believe?

When was the last time you questioned all that you believe?

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

Scrap the Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee has failed in executing Sir Alfred Nobel's will.

The peace prize is to be given to person(s) / society who meet very specific criteria: that [which] renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace congresses.

Intentions are not sufficient; nor are initiatives. One needs to actually render the service. President Obama has not yet managed to do that. In fact, the Nobel Committee has done Obama an injustice. It deprived him an opportunity to actually prove that he is worthy of the prize.

While the other 4 prizes are given away by Sweden, the peace prize is given by Norway. During Alfred Nobel's time, Norway was seen as more neutral of the two. Not sure it is the same now. The Peace Prize, except for some notable exceptions, have always been used as an instrument of furthering the cause of what is seen as right or convenient by the western countries. It has already lost its importance. Why can't it just be scrapped?

I wish Obama had rejected the Nobel Prize.

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Eco-friendly couplet

This is not exactly a bhajan. It is what might be called a nazm, I think.

Anyways, coming back to the topic ...

This is from the collector's item of a musical album called Sajda. Sajda is one of its kind because it brought together the Nightingale, Lata, and the person who gave a new meaning to Ghazals, Jagjit Singh.

In the album Sajda, the first song - sung by Lata, the first has a wonderful couplet. And it goes something like this ...

Ya dharti kay zakhmon par marham rakh day,

Ya mera dil pathar kar day, ya allah

Either apply ointment to earth's wound,

or turn my heart into a stone, Allah.

(because, I can no longer tolerate earth's wound)

Urdu couplets have this wonderful habit of not stating the obvious; I know what I have typed out in the parenthesis above destroys the beauty of the couplet; in fact the mere act of translation has already destroyed the pain the couplet carries.

Have you come across any such song? Then enlighten me. Only those songs that have not been written to celebrate Earth Day and the like, please.

By the way the lyricist of dard say mera daaman bhar day (from which I extracted the 'ecological' couplet) is Qateel Shifai. You would be hard pressed to find a more soulful number. The first strains of the song, when Lata Mangeshkar calls out the name of Allah is absolutely ethereal. I would recommend the album, Sajda, unhesitatingly.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Falling Coconuts and Management

This might seem like splitting hair, but then I could not pass an opportunity to highlight native intelligence over management knowledge.

As per this article called, The Illusion of Control: Dancing With Chance, based on a book with similar name, the authors discuss subway and coconut to illustrate the difference between the predictable and the unpredictable:

"The authors pinpoint two kinds of risks: subways and coconuts. You can do research and be relatively sure that the subway will be predictable most of the time. On the other hand, you know that coconuts fall from trees, but you can’t predict when they will fall or where they will land. So, you can plan for the subways, but it is difficult to plan for the coconuts."

I have no fight with the substance of the book - of course, everything is not predictable; wisdom is in knowing what is controllable and what is not. But perhaps we can find a solution in how some Bangaloreans manage falling coconuts.

Many houses in Bangalore have coconut trees. And a falling coconut can cause severe damage, especially if it falls on your head or on your car (though I have been told by some of my friends that a coconut never falls on a human head; but that is a different story). And the authors are right. You cannot predict when they would fall. So, what could be the solution? A basket. Yes! A basket. I have seen a basket made of bamboo fitted around the trunk of the coconut tree - near the top. So, it doesn't matter when the coconut falls. It always falls in the basket. Cool!

So, you can plan for the coconut, after all. Basically, if we know the risks a solution can be found. It is the totally unknown that we need to be careful of. We also need to be careful of the Black Swans - incidents of extreme low probability of occurrence but with very high impact.

Coconut falling is a poor example. We know that it falls. We need to look out for things we do not even see in our horizon.

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Stimulating Creativity

Some management studies surprise me no end. Take this study on How To Stimulate Creativity? for instance. "Go live abroad", it says. Immersing yourself in local experiences for a prolonged period helps stimulate creativity. People who are bi-lingual or tri-lingual are found to be more creative in the study.

I have no doubt it does. Different inputs fire different neurons in your brain. variety of experiences help trigger creative juices. You do not have to live abroad for that. Just do things differently.

Do you drive to your office everyday? Do you take the same route? Try a different one. Or go to office in a bus for a month. Or better still pedal to office.

Do you love thrillers? Go to your local bookshop or the library and pick up a genre that you would never think of reading.

You can't stand classical music? Listen to Carnatic / Hindustani / Wsetern classical for a month. Oh! You are already into classical music? Listen to Jazz then.

Learn a new language on your own.

You do not have to go live abroad to become creative. You can create your own different environment at home. And I promise you, each of my suggestions given above will increase your creativity. It is the new experience and the ability to weave the new experiences into your daily life that makes one creative.

And if creativity was linked to number of languages, then all Indians would be overflowing with creativity. Any educated Indian would know at least 3 languages, if not more.

Wait a minute! Perhaps, we Indians are really very creative.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Indian Wins Nobel - Wish Comes True

Didn't have to wait that long, now, did I?

I blogged my desire of an Indian winning a Nobel in the Sciences just yesterday (here) and just now received the news that Venkatraman Ramakrishnan has won this years Nobel for Chemistry. (see here) He shares it with two others - Thomas A. Steiz and Ada E. Yonath.

Now if only all my desires were fulfilled this rapidly!!

PS: I am not that hung upon "achieved it in India". So what if he works in the US?

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Srinivasa Vardhan

Have you ever heard of S. R. Srinivasa Vardhan?

I bet you haven't.
This is a country that worships cricketers and movie stars. How could you have ever heard of a mathematician of International repute!!!

He is the only Indian to have won the Abel Prize. This prize is also known as the Mathematician's Nobel Prize. He received this Prize in 2007. And I do not recollect his photograph splashed across the front page of any paper or magazine, but then I do not read all the newspapers and magazines, and my memory is diminishing with age. In any case, I am quite certain there was no hoopla that was associated with, say, Sushmita Sen or even Amartya Sen.

Oh by the way, the Indian government has conferred upon him the Padma Bhushan in 2008 - AFTER he received the Abel Prize.

If you click on the 2008 list, you will also see a host of names, along with Mr. Vardhan's. How many of these can you recognise? Are we giving Padma awards to too many people?

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Waiting For Indians

I am waiting for ...

the first Indian to break the 10s barrier in 100m
the next Indian to get a Nobel prize in science
the first Indian to get the Fields Medal
the next Indian to become the world chess champion
the first Indian to walk on the Moon
the next Indian to swim the English channel
the first Indian team to win the World Cup Football
the next Indian team to win the Olympic Gold in hockey

Don't tell me all have become software engineers! Like me!

Feel free to add to the list.

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Will Google Last Forever?

Today we take World Wide Web and Google to be synonyms of the Internet. But what of tomorrow? Will Google still be the force they are today. Let us take a brief look back at history ...

This book, Permission Marketing, written by Seth Godin, is dated 1997 (though it was 2007, Seth desisted from rewriting the book. Good!). That is just 12 years ago. And here's what the messiah of internet marketing has to say:

AltaVista, one of the most complete and most visited search engines on the Internet, claims to have indexed 100 million pages.

AltaVista? What is that? As per wiki, "AltaVista was once one of the most popular search engines but its popularity has waned with the rise of Google."

So will we some years down the line talk of Google in the same terms? Who knows? But things change. Microsoft / Bing can take heart.

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Monday, October 5, 2009

My Top 10 Lata Mangeshkar Songs

30,000+ songs. How does one choose? Obviously I am not going to sift through this huge data. I have a simpler way. I will type in whichever Lata song comes to my mind as I blog. Blogging does not get much live than this.

So here's my list of Lata Mangeshkar Top 10:

1. Lag jaa galey ki phir yeh haseen raat ho na ho, shayad is janam mein mulakat ko na ho - from Woh Kaun Thi? The music is by Madan Mohan

2. Tera jaana, dil key armaanon ka loot jaana, koi dehke bun kay taqdeeron ka mitt jana - from Anadi. The music is by Shankar Jaikishan. Nutan is absolutely heartbroken.

3. O! Sajana, barkha bahar aayi, ras ki phuhar layi, aankhiyon mein pyaas layi - from Parakh - this one is brilliant. The music is by Salil Chodhury

4. Chura kay gaya sapna mera, baithi hoon kab ho savera - from Jewel Thief. The music is by S.D. Burman. Vyjantimala never looked more beautiful.

5. Aaa! Jaan-e-jaan, aa mera yeh husn jawan - from Intequam. The music is by Laxmikant Pyarelal. This one is special: the only cabaret number by Lata. Helen gives her best; so does the man, painted all black, in the cage. (Actually there is one more song from Intequam that I love - Kaisay rahoon chup kay meinay pi hi kya hai.)

6. Dilbar dil say pyare - from Caravan. The music is by R.D. Burman. Perhaps Aruna Irani's best dance number.

7. Biti na bitai raina, birha ki jayi raina - from Parichay; the brilliant Hindi remake of the Sound of Music. The music is by R.D. Burman. (Actually this is a duet with Bhupendra doing a cameo at the end). Gulzar, RD and Lata were a deadly combination.

8. Another Gulzar-Lata-RD number from Andhi: Tere bina zindagi say shikwa. Duet with the man with the golden voice, Kishore Kumar. (I love all the three songs from this movie. The other two ... tum aa gaye ho, nur aa gaya hai; and iss mod say jaatey hain, kuch sust kadam rakh kar. All three songs are filmed on Suchitra Sen, Bengal's pride and Sanjeev Kumar).

9. Thinking of Suchitra Sen ... this one is from another Hindi movie of hers, Mamta. The song ... Rahein na rahein hum, mehka kareingay ban kay kali .... I think the music is by Roshan.

10. A non-filmi song which brings a lump to my throat every time I even think of it ... Aye meray watan kay logon, zara aankh mein bhar lo paani. I think the music is by C Ramachandra.

Is it already number 10? Hmmm... sad. I have so many more to go.

Which are your favourite Lata Mangeshkar songs?

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Hounouring Gandhi the Montblanc Way

Two reasons to be proud of India: Mahatma Gandhi and Lata Mangeshkar. These two people define the essence of India for me. One the apostle of peace - the greatest human being to have walked the earth; and the other the sweetest voice known to mankind. A country that gave birth to these two gems is definitely a country worth living and dying for.

But then you come across an advert (in India Today's some supplement that features only the most expensive stuff - beyond the reach of ordinary human beings) - Montblanc has launched limited edition gold and silver pens celebrating Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. Gold and Silver?!?! Mahatma Gandhi - the man who gave up his every comfort to identify with the men and women he led - must be crying in heaven.

I am sure we Indians have done lots of things that must have caused the Mahatma lots of pain - the values he held dear are no longer the central theme of Indian mindset; but honouring him in gold is simply ridiculous. I am sure the makers of Montblanc will donate the money earned from this pen to charity. No? :)

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Good and Evil and Durga Puja

Durga Puja - celebration to mark Durga's yearly visit to her father's house on earth - the central theme of a Hindu Bangali's religious, cultural and social existence, can be extremely disruptive to a blogger. Here I am trying to pick up threads of my regular blogging activities, still recovering from the hectic 4 days of fun.

A typical day of a Durga Puja - get up in the morning, skip breakfast, go to the puja mandap, offer "onjoli" (offering of flowers to the goddess with 3 short rounds of mantra - repeated after the priest), have a community feast consisting mainly of kichchdi, a mixed vegetable and, of course, sweets, enjoy the cultural show organised in the evenings (singers, dancers, theater, etc.), eat chicken rolls (chicken pieces wrapped in a roti), return home late and crash.

The Durga Puja ends with the common theme of all religions - the victory of good over evil. So far so good. But with ever changing definition of good and evil, it becomes rather difficult to correlate religious themes in your daily life. It is therefore best to suspend inquiry and enjoy the colours of these festivals.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

In Search of a Rapid Language Learning Technique

I have been on a personal mission to find out a technique that helps me learn language faster. I think I have managed to find one. Check out my Squidoo lens on Learn Spanish Rapidly. What do you think? I would love to hear your ideas - you may leave a comment here or in the Squidoo lens. Thanks!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Great Indian Drama ... Continues

The Congress Party leadership evidently doesn't read a lot. Otherwise, Shashi Tharoor definitely wouldn't be in Congress Party. The tweeting ("cattle class") controversy pales in front of this.

In the brilliant satire, The Great Indian Novel, Shashi Tharoor has very cleverly casted the Indian Leaders as characters of the Mahabharata. And guess who is Jawahar Lal Nehru in the novel? The blind king Dhritarashtra and so it obviously follows that Indira Gandhi is Duryodhana - she is called Priya Duryodhani, the autocratic villain, daughter of Dhritarashtra and head of the Kaurava Party.

I am surprised that the Congress men known for their unflinching devotion to the Nehru-Gandhi family are not baying for Tharoor's blood. Or perhaps my original assumption holds good - The Congress Part Leadership does not read a lot. Ok, it is not to end a post in a negative note, so ... perhaps the inclusion of Shashi Tharoor into Congress and Ministry is a sign of a mature leadership that has a great sense of humour and recognises the experience that Tharoor brings into the External Affairs Ministry.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Spanish Understand Marriages

The Spanish language has two words for "be".

Thus, for example, "I am" could be "soy" (=saw-ee) or "estoy" (=es-toy-ee).
Soy is used for things that are permanent in nature, whereas Estoy is for those things that are in transition or if it is about location. (the infinitive forms are "ser" and "estar")

I am Amitabh = Soy Amitabh
I am ready = Estoy listo

I am from India = Soy de la India
I am working = Estoy trabajando

Just wondering why the ancient Spanish people decided to use the 'temporary be - estar' for marriage?!?!?!

Estoy casado = I'm married.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Our Collective Escape Mechanism - Temples

I compose this blog in my mind as I stand in a temple wondering at the milling people around me, eyes closed and palms clasped, mouthing barely audible prayers. Normally, I wouldn't be dragged into a temple by ten wild horses but in a battle of strength between the wild horses and my wife, my wife wins hands down - one command and I follow her into temple(s).
Anyways, getting back to the point ... what are all these people praying for? If they are praying for that promotion, then they are asking God to deny someone more deserving; or are they asking God to bend the existing physical laws just for him/her - in other words a miracle?
Don't they know, that God does not exist; or if God does exist, then s/he does not interfere with our daily lives?
Actually temples are our escape mechanism.
To assume responsibility for every action we take is difficult and, possibly, unnerving.
Assign responsibility to some non-existing force/power/whatever is so damn easy - "You screwed up my life, you fix it."

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Calculus of friendship

When you come across books that have titles such as this ... The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life while Corresponding about Math ... you wonder who would buy these. After all how popular could a book written by a maths professor be? But then you realize that good books transcend genres. Good books need to be promoted and so here's my attempt to boost its sales. Please click on this link and be prepare to be enthralled.

And oh! I almost forgot!
This one is no. 500 - my 500th post on this blog.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Goddess On Your Tongue

Someone told this to me long, long ago. Once in day Saraswati, the goddess of learning sits on your tongue. One doesn't know exactly when; she does so randomly. And at that instant whatever you say comes true. So you should always say good things ... you never know what comes true.

I have not yet found a better logic(?) than this to promote politeness and decency among humans.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Essential Aid To Language Learning

Of all the online translators available, I think the Google Translate is by far superior. I used the Yahoo Babel Fish all these days. To put it as mildly as possible - the translation stinks. You need numerous attempt to coax the desired result. And to think that I translated a 200 page document from German to English using Babel Fish! Some patience!

It was quite by accident that I hit upon Google Translate and I am mighty pleased. (Actually I feel quite dumb about it - this service has been in existence for some time now).

The translation is 'live' - the text get translated as you press "enter"(I find this aspect missing and terribly annoying in Babel Fish. After entering a text, you have to click on the translate button. At times nothing happens.)

Don't like the translation provided by Google? Go ahead and recommend a better translation.

Yet another good feature of the Google Translate is that it also displays a tiny dictionary that can be explored. You can also search the word in the web from a link.

A good test of a well translated text is to reverse the translation. Google Translate allows you to swap the languages at a click of a button.

And, oh yes, Hindi is one of the languages that you can translate into or from. This is yet another instance of Google coming in late into a domain and providing a better solution that all existing ones.

I think this is an invaluable tool in learning a language.

Now if only I could have a mobile version of this ...

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Monday, September 7, 2009

Spanish Potatoes

My fascination for the connection between Spanish and Hindi continues (see here). At times the connection stuns me. I hope you also will be.

The word "ki" (कि) in Hindi is equivalent to the English "that". "He said that ..." is "woh bola ki..."
Guess what is equivalent of the Hindi "ki" in Spanish?
You guessed right! It is "Que" - pronounced "kay". "él dijo que ..."

Ok consider this now ... slightly complicated.

है (ha-ay), in Hindi, is difficult to explain and can mean "is" or "... is there". Example, "Is there anyone?" is " कोई है?" (Ko-ee ha-ay). The word for "is there" in Spanish is "hay", pronounced aa-ee.

I find such similarity amazing. It is easy to ascribe such similarities to Indo-European langauges (Sanskrit, Spanish, German, all belong to this group of languages.) However, Hindi did not evolve from Sanskrit. It evolved from Prakrit, like other dialects, such as Braj and Awadhi. But absorbed heavily from Sanskrit to become a standard version. So the basic structure still remains different from Sanskrit.

Thus, the word है does not have any equivalent in Sanskrit. But yet, has similar sounding word in Spanish. I wonder what the connection is?

The only other strange connection I can see is in an entirely different domain - culinary. There is hardly any day when potato does not form part of the North Indian meal. Potatoes were introduced to India by the Portuguese - who were, of course, once upon a time part of Spain. Spanish and Portuguese most definitely have got this from Peru and Chile. I do not know the exact mechanism of how Potato was made popular in India by the Portuguese but I find it very difficult to believe that it was merely a case of dumping a sackful of potatoes on an Indian door step.

So is there a connection? After all both - language and cuisine - are the subject of the tongue.

This post is merely a flight of imagination. I do not claim any scholarly knowledge on this subject. There are much more learned people than I in this domain. If you are one such and happen to read this blog, I will be obliged if you could throw some light on this.

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